Prime Number

A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime because only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite because it has the divisors 2 and 3 in addition to 1 and 6. The fundamental theorem of arithmetic establishes the central role of primes in number theory: any integer greater than 1 can be expressed as a product of primes that is unique up to ordering. The uniqueness in this theorem requires excluding 1 as a prime because it is the multiplicative identity.

The property of being prime is called primality. A simple but slow method of verifying the primality of a given number n is known as trial division. It consists of testing whether n is a multiple of any integer between 2 and . Algorithms that are much more efficient than trial division have been devised to test the primality of large numbers. Particularly fast methods are available for primes of special forms, such as Mersenne primes. As of 2011, the largest known prime number has nearly 13 million decimal digits.

There are infinitely many primes, as demonstrated by Euclid around 300 BC. There is no known useful formula that yields all of the prime numbers and no composites. However, the distribution of primes, that is to say, the statistical behaviour of primes in the large, can be modeled. The first result in that direction is the prime number theorem, proven at the end of the 19th century, which says that the probability that a given, randomly chosen number n is prime is inversely proportional to its number of digits, or the logarithm of n.

Many questions around prime numbers remain open, such as Goldbach's conjecture, which asserts that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two primes, and the twin prime conjecture, which says that there are infinitely many pairs of primes whose difference is 2. Such questions spurred the development of various branches of number theory, focusing on analytic or algebraic aspects of numbers. Primes are used in several routines in information technology, such as public-key cryptography, which makes use of properties such as the difficulty of factoring large numbers into their prime factors. Prime numbers give rise to various generalizations in other mathematical domains, mainly algebra, such as prime elements and prime ideals.

Read more about Prime Number:  Definition and Examples, Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic, History, Number of Prime Numbers, Testing Primality and Integer Factorization, Distribution, Applications, Generalizations, In The Arts and Literature

Famous quotes containing the words prime and/or number:

    My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
    My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
    My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
    And all my good is but vain hope of gain:
    The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
    And now I live, and now my life is done.
    Chidiock Tichborne (1558–1586)

    If I could live as a tree, as a river, as the moon, as the sun, as a star, as the earth, as a rock, I would. ...Writing permits me to experience life as any number of strange creations.
    Alice Walker (b. 1944)